Sometimes cleaning the fridge can lead to delicious things…

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions

This fall I went a little overboard with apples. I just kept accumulating them — I bought bags from the farmer’s markets, a box from a co-worker for a school fundraiser and random ones on sale at the grocery store. Around November, I couldn’t even look at apples anymore and just avoided glancing at the full-to-the-brim fruit drawer in my refrigerator.

Finally a few weeks ago I decided to revisit those apples and use them up, one way or another. While they had lost some of their “crisp,” they were still great for other applications. I grated a few into some batches of hot cereal and was surprised at how tasty the outcome was – sweet, slightly tart and perfect with cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup.

Thursday night I got the opportunity to use up a few more.

I was totally at a loss at what to make for dinner. I hadn’t had a chance to go to the store but rooting around in my fridge I came up with a pork tenderloin, some brussels sprouts, half a head of cauliflower and (of course) a handful of apples. After adding an onion and some home-dried thyme to the mix, my findings suddenly seemed like a cohesive dish rather than just a hodge-podge of ingredients.

I  actually think it was the thyme that tipped the scales in my favor. Normally I steer away from anything too sweet for dinner since my husband prefers things as savory as possible. I wasn’t sure if he’d liked the roasted apples, but I hoped the thyme and the onion would balance out the sugar. And hey, if he didn’t like it, more for me, right?

I roasted the cauliflower, onions and apples all separately. While they were cooking away, I shaved the brussles sprouts continuing to check the items in the oven. The apples were done first:

Apples, peeled, quartered and toss in some butter. Roasted until soft, deglaze  pan with apple brandy. Yum!

Apples, peeled, quartered and tossed in some butter with a sprinkling of salt. Roast until soft but not mushy, deglaze pan with apple brandy. Yum!

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Herb & Garlic Rubbed Poussin with Pistachio Relish

Herbed Poussin with Pistachio Relish

One of my favorite work stories is the day I got a call from a guy who wanted to buy some possum meat. We get that type of call all the time — people looking for beaver, lion and squirrel — so this request was not too strange. I told him we did not sell possum, expecting that to be the end of it.

Instead he started to argue with me, saying that he was looking at our price list online and possum was on there as being a “stock item.” Baffled, I asked him for the item number. He gave it to me and I could barely contain my laughter as I said, “Sir, that’s not possum, it’s poussin — baby chickens.”

That happened years ago but it still makes me giggle.

For anyone else unfamiliar with poussin, they are basically a chicken a few weeks younger than a game hen. Once processed and packed, they weigh about 15-17 oz, making them ideal for a one-bird-per-person dinner.

I rarely ever buy them, but I had a recipe that I wanted to try out and it called for 2 each 3# chickens. Since I was only cooking for two people, I figured two poussin would work just fine.

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Cider brined pork roast, yet another reason to love autumn

Cider Brined Pork with Roasted Onions and Potatoes

Cider Brined Pork with Roasted Onions and Potatoes

Every fall I buy a bottle of Applejack as my way of welcoming in the season. Last weekend I not only bought the requisite bottle of booze, somehow I also ended up buying three half-gallon containers of different apple ciders. I just couldn’t help myself. Every store I went to seemed to have cider for sale and I am (clearly) incapable of refusing it. Even though I knew I had a full gallon waiting at home, I still bought a final jug as a reward for surviving the Haunted Corn Maze on Saturday night.

Side note: If you want to know what type of person you are deep inside, go through a Haunted Corn Maze in the dark. I discovered I am the type of person who will sacrifice their friends in order to get away from the guy with a chain saw. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.

At any rate, a fridge full of cider is never a bad thing. In fact it allowed me to make this beautiful dish which was a delicious way to fully embrace autumn’s arrival. Since cider is unavoidable this time of year, it only seems right to also use it in a brine.

This particular recipe is the October cover recipe for Bon Appetite and I’ve been staring at it for a few weeks waiting for a good night to make it. Maybe all that cider was getting to me — I just couldn’t hold out any longer.

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Pork and Pineapple 2.0 — New meat, New method

Sriracha-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Sriracha-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

A year or so ago, I bought a fresh pineapple for the sole purpose of making a recipe I had been dying to try — a boneless pork butt slathered in Sriracha and slow roasted for hours on a bed of pineapple. It turned out pretty amazing, a tangy combination of sweet, spicy and sour.

While I loved the flavor, the leftovers turned out to be slightly dry because of the cooking process. The meat ends up glazed and tender, but it lacks a sauce to help keep it moist upon reheating. And even though we are, as I like to put it, “professional eaters,” my husband and I couldn’t polish off the whole six-pound piece in one sitting.

So, since I had recently been daydreaming about the dish, I decided to make it again using a pork tenderloin instead. The key difference is that the pork butt needed to roast for a long time at low temperature to be tender, whereas the tenderloin would be tender cooked to medium-rare. I figured this would offer more forgiveness for the leftovers.

Pineapple cooked in sugar and vinegar

Pineapple cooked in sugar and vinegar

I kept the same preparation, cutting the meat in a spiral and rubbing it with spices and Sriracha before tying it up in kitchen twine. Since the cooking time was dramatically reduced, I started off the pineapple (tossed with equal parts brown sugar and apple cider vinegar) a good hour beforehand.

Once the pineapple was tender and fragrant (and, oh man, it smelled so good!), I placed the tenderloin on top, and let it roll. About 20 minutes later, I opened my oven and was greeted to the most beautiful sight:

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Triple Threat Wings are Violently Delicious

Triple Threat Chicken Wings

Triple Threat Chicken Wings

Chicken wings, cooked the way my grandma always makes them, are a nostalgic food for me. The recipe she uses has been in the family for years and with one bite, they instantly transport me back to my childhood. Cooked low and slow, the wings end up as glossy little things, coated in a sticky mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar and wine. I love them so much it’s hard for me to even contemplating trying out a different wing recipe.

However, fellow Portland dweller Cam (who makes “violently delicious food for a modern life”) just posted a recipe for Triple Threat Chicken Wings on her blog Gekiuma. Her photos of the lacquered wings dripping with garlic, ginger and chilies were enticing enough to make me reconsider. And it seemed too much of a coincidence, serendipitous in fact, that I happened to have a package of chicken wings in the fridge.

So within 24 hours of her post, I broke tradition and gave her Triple Threat Wings a shot.

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Picnic-Perfect Chicken with Grape & Raisin Agrodolce

Roasted Chicken with AgrodolceIt may be disgustingly cold in Portland right now, but my mind is fast-forwarding to the pleasures of spring. Just when I think I can’t handle any more winter, I know it’ll soon be over and the sun will warm up the city. And when that happens, there will be trips to the river, the park, the coast or down into Oregon’s wine country. And when there are trips like that, picnics are a given!

Last summer I tried out pressed sandwiches for my rather infamous picnic in Newport, OR. I’ve already decided that when spring hits, I’ll be packing this chicken. And I won’t make promises about sharing with any of my picnic-partaking partners. It’s so good, they might have to fend for themselves.

This recipe is, as they would call it in the movie biz, a sleeper hit. It is greater than the sum of its parts, but if it came down to it, it’s the agrodolce that takes it above and beyond. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s an Italian version of sweet and sour, usually made with a combination of vinegar and sugar, similar to the French gastrique.

And it is fabulous. I’ve tasted agrodolce in several different forms — coating onions, lacquered over wild boar ribs and even as a sticky, finger-licking sauce on turkey wings. But this relish could be one of my favorites. The grapes were like little jewels and the onion was almost candied, but the bite of the vinegar was still very present and the pine nuts rounded everything out with a hint of buttery flavor. It’s the perfect topping for any meat, though it perfectly complements this chicken.

Just looking at this makes my mouth water!

Just looking at this makes my mouth water!

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